As California lawmakers face a bill that would require schoolchildren to be vaccinated despite parental beliefs, it is important to understand the law and history behind vaccination mandates. All states require some vaccines of children entering public schools, providing exemptions for medical, religious and sometimes philosophical reasons, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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In addition to state laws, court cases challenging these laws help set the framework for what is legal and not in the case of vaccines. Here are 4 times the courts have upheld mandatory vaccination laws.
1. Jacobson v. Massachusetts (1905) was a Supreme Court case that originated when Massachusetts mandated Cambridge residents to be vaccinated for smallpox, according to Case Western Reserve Law Review
. Reverend Henning Jacobson opposed the vaccine and challenged the Massachusetts law.
The Supreme Court ruled in the state’s favor, holding that public health and safety is part of a state’s policy power and “legislation was a valid exercise of the state’s police power and not an invasion of any constitutional rights,” Case Western Reserve said.
2. Zucht v. King (1922) centered on a Texas state law that required schoolchildren to have been vaccinated. The Supreme Court also upheld the state law stating that “municipal officers had ‘broad discretion in matters affecting the application and enforcement of a health law,’” according to Case Western.
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3. In re Christine M. (1992) was a New York Family Court case that ruled a father medical neglect when he refused to give his 4-year-old daughter the measles vaccine in the middle of a community measles epidemic, Case Western said. The father had claimed religious exemptions, but the court ruled that since his church did not forbid vaccinations, it was not sufficient for exemption.
4. Boone v. Boozman (2002) was a District Court case regarding Hepatitis B vaccination. A mother argued that there was no presence of a current epidemic and she had a religious opposition to vaccinating her 4-year-old daughter, Case Western reported. The law review explains that the court ruled against the mother since hepatitis B has serious side effects (being the second leading cause of cancer), and those at high risk (young adults) are unlikely to self-identify and get the vaccine.
There are numerous court cases and precedents surrounding this issue. Vaccination law will continue to change as lawmakers and the judiciary face these issues.
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